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Since 2010, Environment Canterbury (ECan) has been led by seven Commissioners appointed by the Government. This was in response to serious concerns from within the community around the capacity and capability of ECan to effectively carry out functions relating to fresh water management in the region.

An independent report in 2010 found that ECan was failing to meet statutory deadlines on resource consents, and making insufficient progress on key planning arrangements relating to the allocation and management of fresh water.

The Commissioners have since made progress on key plans for fresh water, such as the Canterbury Water Management Strategy and Land and Water Regional Plan. Remaining fresh water planning arrangements are expected to be in place by 2019.

In 2013, the Commissioners’ terms were extended for three years to maintain their progress in fresh water management, and in response to the additional challenges created by the Canterbury earthquakes.

The Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010, which provides for Commissioners at ECan, expires from the local authority elections in 2016. On 1 March 2014, the Minister for the Environment and Minister of Local Government began a review of ECan membership, governance, and resource management powers to determine what future arrangements may be needed to maintain the progress made by the Commissioners and transition ECan back to a standard regional council.

Following public consultation via a discussion document titled Environment Canterbury Review: A discussion document, the Government has decided to implement a mixed-model governance structure for ECan.

The mixed-model provides for seven councillors elected by Canterbury communities, and up to six councillors appointed by the Government. The mixed-model will provide local representation at ECan, with a continued focus through appointed councillors on implementing a comprehensive and collaborative fresh water allocation and nutrient management system for the Canterbury region.

The mixed-model will be in place until the 2019 local authority elections, when it is intended that ECan will return to the standard regional council model.